GUEST POST: a danger to herself and others by alyssa sheinmel 🌙


A Danger to Herself and Others released earlier this month, and I am so excited to have author Alyssa Shienmel on the blog today! After loving Alyssa's earlier work of psychological fiction Faceless, I had high hopes for this one and it did not at all disappoint. Since A Danger to Herself and Others tells the moving story of a young girl struggling to come to terms with her mental illness, I was curious as to what inspired Alyssa to write about the experience of being institutionalized, so I jumped at the opportunity to ask her about some of the research involved in writing the book and the things that inspired her. 




I don’t always remember exactly when or how I come up with an idea for a new book, but I do remember exactly how A Danger to Herself and Others first made its way into my imagination—the spark for this book began on Twitter. An editor I know tweeted that she was looking for a YA novel where a character is confined to a single room for much of the story. I realized later that she was asking for book recommendations—not for someone to actually start writing a book!—but at the time, it got me thinking about why a character might find herself in such circumstances, and it wasn’t long before I was picturing a teenage girl in a room in a mental institution.


The second spark for this story was Hannah’s voice—smart, confident, even occasionally (I think/hope!) funny—her voice was clear to me from the very first sentence. I knew I was writing a complicated and not always likeable (or reliable...) narrator—but I loved slipping into her head with every page I wrote. As the story progresses, her confidence in herself wavers—but even then, I tried to stay true to her voice.


The third spark for this story came with all the research that helped me write it. I’m a very research-happy writer. I genuinely love telling stories that require a lot of research. So not long after those first two sparks hit, I was reading book after book about women and men who’d spent time in mental institutions. Memoirs like Marya Hornbacher’s Madness, Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire, The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett and the YA classic I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg (and so many more books and articles!), were invaluable to me. Some of the books I read were stories of people who’d been institutionalized or hospitalized for very different reasons than my main character, and others under similar circumstances, but all these stories were such vivid accounts of what it was like to be in an institution: what it was like to feel trapped at times—but at others, to feel safe and secure under a doctor’s care; the struggle to come to terms with a surprising diagnosis; the certainty that the doctors and therapists can’t help you—but then the relief when you realize that the doctors and therapists have been helping you all along.


A Danger to Herself and Others isn’t the first story I’ve written that touches on mental illness, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Like so many writers, I often find myself writing about themes that I’m eager to discuss. A first draft starts out kind of like a one-sided conversation, but as more people read the book from one draft to the next, the conversation shifts and grows. Now that this book is out in the world, I’m excited to see where the conversation will go next.

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✨Release date: February 5 2019
✨Find Alyssa's book: GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY




About Alyssa

Alyssa Sheinmel is the New York Times bestselling author of several young adult novels, including A Danger to Herself and Others and Faceless. She is the co-author of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and its sequel, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York, and currently lives and writes in New York. 






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